Monthly Archives: October 2012

Keeping it formal – your academic writing

I’ve worked with many different academic texts, written by native and non-native speakers alike. Many issues are the same all over the world and crop up in anything from an undergraduate essay to a journal article. One of the major ones is making sure the language and style used is appropriate to the academic environment.

Here are my top tips for keeping your academic writing formal and appropriate.

No contractions

Contractions are not suitable for academic writing. That’s right, don’t do what you wouldn’t see in a textbook.

  • Change don’t to do not
  • Change there’s to there is
  • Change isn’t to is not

The only exception to this (and to all of these rules, actually) is if you’re quoting, either the literature or the direct speech of your interview participants / writing in entries to your questionnaires. Then, go ahead and use what someone else has said (but see the section on tidiness below).

Colloquialisms and slang – not cool, man

It’s very easy to be tempted to write as you speak. This includes those contractions that we’ve just talked about, of course. The classic one I see here is “lots of”; you just need to upgrade that one a little, and the same happens with “really”.

  • Instead of “Lots of researchers say this is wrong”, try “Many researchers say this is wrong”.
  • Instead of “This happened in lots of places”, try “This happened in a large number of cases”
  • Instead of “Interviewee A appeared to be really upset about this”, try “Interviewee A appeared to be very upset about this”

If you’re tempted further into slang, then think twice. Is there a way to make this sound less informal? What word would you use if you were talking in a seminar, or to your grandparents?

There is no place for the exclamation mark!

This one is more about objectivity than anything else. If you’re writing an academic text, you need not to appear partisan (even if you are) and your language needs to be very cool, calm, collected and academically rigorous. An exclamation mark is a surefire way to allow your own personal feelings to creep in.

Contrast these two examples:

  • When they were claiming expenses, senior managers would often claim for an extra meal that they did not order or eat!
  • When they were claiming expenses, senior managers would often claim for an extra meal they did not order or eat.

In the first one, we can’t help reading a value judgement – this is a bad thing, right? Well, it might be, but your job is to report the facts and then draw conclusions from them, backed up with the theory from your literature review.

Me, me, me (I)

It can be quite hard to work your own practice into the text in an appropriately formal way. It’s not usually acceptable to use the word “I” and you will need to find a way to work around this. It’s a good idea to check local practice here – some institutions favour “we”, some go for “the researcher”, and some won’t let anything personal through at all, and you’ll have to do some rather acrobatic writing to twist it all round into the passive tense.

Please note that this one can change depending on the academic discipline within which you’re working, and the agreed common practice of your institution. So check this one with your supervisor or the style guide you may have been given at the start of your course or contract, and adhere to the rules you’re given there above my rules. If you are not given any guidance, then use my suggestions to keep it as formal as possible. It’s worse to be under dressed than to be over dressed!

Here are some examples of the options:

  • I found that not all of the respondents answered every question
  • We found that not all of the respondents answered every question
  • The researcher found that not all of the respondents answered every question
  • It was found that not all of the respondents answered every question
  • Or, keeping it simple: Not all of the respondents answered every question

Eliminate sloppiness

It’s oh-so-easy to let sloppiness and inconsistency creep in, especially when you’re writing a long document with lots of sections. These are a few of the major culprits

  • Not checking the spelling of names in your references. Spell-checker won’t notice this and if you go too far wrong, your proofreader might think you’re talking about two different authors.
  • Not being consistent in your headings styles and numbering (read this article and the ones it’s linked to if you need help setting this up to be automatic)
  • Not being consistent with how you lay out new paragraphs and indented quotations (those big ones that you put in a special paragraph all on their own)
  • Not being consistent with your -ise- and -ize- spellings (organisation vs. organization)
  • Not being consistent with your capitalisation – there are rules for this which I’ll treat on the blog at some stage, but there are often choices to be made, too
  • Not being consistent with hyphenation – similar to capitalisation
  • Using abbreviations without spelling them out the first time

The editor’s solution for this? Use a style sheet. If there’s something you need to use consistently, note down your preferred way of doing it on a separate Word document, and keep it open to refer to as you need.

With abbreviations, note down each one and when you first use it (chapter and section will be enough), Keep this updated if you’re working on the chapters in an unusual order, and make sure the first instance is the one that has the words spelled out.

Keep it tidy

This is related to sloppiness, but a bit more specific. This is all about keeping the document looking nice, so how it looks doesn’t distract from what it says. I find two main culprits here:

  • Putting everything into direct quotations from interview respondents. I often find a quotation like this: “… and um the thing the thing is that, it’s not going to … work … at … all”. A much neater way to put this, which is going to get across the meaning a lot more clearly, would be “And the thing is, that it’s not going to [pause] work at all”.
  • Emphasis overload. If you’re indenting a quotation and putting it in italics, you don’t need to put quotation marks around it, too – it’s pretty obvious that it’s a quotation. If it’s a quotation in the text, just quotation marks, no need for italics except for emphasis. If you’ve got a heading, bold, underline and italics plus a colon at the end might just be too much

As a basic rule, keep it simple, keep it neat and tidy: don’t distract from the reader’s experience of the content of your writing.

Reference, reference, reference

I cover this in detail in another article, but it’s worth reminding you of these rules …

  • If you state an opinion that hasn’t come directly from your brain as an original thought, reference it: “Many people think the sky is green (Jones, 2010; Smith, 2012)”
  • If you talk about something that’s come out of your research, reference it and make sure you label your respondents: “One teacher thought this was rubbish and said so (Interviewee A2)”
  • If you state your own opinion, still back it up: “When reading the responses from the students, it struck the researcher that this needed looking into”; “As we have seen from the teacher respondents, not everyone agreed”. “We found that, contrary to Green (2011) our results suggest pupils do respect their teachers”


I hope you’ve found these pointers useful. If you’re a student or a supervisor and you can suggest any more hints and tips, do please use the comments below to share them! And you might find my other resources for students and resources for Word users helpful – do take a look.


Posted by on October 31, 2012 in New skills, proofreading, Students, Word, Writing


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Small business chat updates – Maxine Johnston

Official theo pic.jpg

Maxine meets Theo Paphitis!

Welcome to another Small Business Chat update, with the lovely Maxine from Personalised Parties.

Maxine’s original interview was published on 22 October 2011. Where did she want to be in a year’s time? Maxine said, “I would love to see the new Life’s a Celebration website take off as well as Personalised Parties At the moment I am working from home but I would love to be in a position to be exploring small business premises in a year’s time”. And I’m pleased to say that she’s one of our big successes. Not only has she met Theo Paphitis (at an event he held for his Small Business Sunday Twitter feature winners). Let’s see how she’s doing …

Are you where you thought you’d be when you looked forward a year ago?

The business has moved forward in leaps and bounds over the last year and when I look back at all the achievements, I feel really proud of myself. The Life’s A Celebration brand is starting to gain some fabulous recognition, not only in the UK but also across the world. The party concept that we’ve come up has been accepted and all my customers feed back on the ease and simplicity of it all. This year has been particularly good, as we’ve had the Jubilee and the Olympics, which have been really great things to celebrate. In fact, the Jubilee party boxes we offered were so successful that I had to pinch myself!

This time last year I thought I would perhaps be in a position now to be looking at dedicated office space. Well this was achieved long before I could ever have imagined, and we moved into our own premises on 1st April. Getting out of the house has been great, and it’s great to be able to meet with customers and chat about their parties (plus I feel like I’ve got my home back!).

In March this year I met Theo Paphitis as he celebrated with all the Small Business Sunday winners. This was a brilliant day from start to finish – what an inspirational man. He said that it’s incredible that the harder he worked the luckier he was. This is so true! I have worked incredibly hard this year and I really feel that this is starting to pay off.

On 1st November the Life’s A Celebration website will be a year old, and all kinds of celebrations are in the pipeline throughout November to mark this.

What has changed and what has stayed the same?

The Personalised Parties branding and website has been changed and I now solely trade under the Life’s A Celebration branding and website.

My mindset has probably changed a bit too. If I’m being honest I think I thought it would be easier than it actually is. I thought I’d launch my Life’s A Celebration website and the hits and customers would automatically follow. This is definitely not the case! You have to promote your website daily and never once take your eye off the ball in terms of your promotion.

That said, I absolutely love the promotion angle of the business, and really love chatting with people via my social media feeds. I have also launched a Skype button on my website and I regularly chat to customers via this medium so they can see me and the quality of my party boxes. As we deliver all over the UK, most of my customers can’t just pop in for a coffee, and I feel that people buy from people, so once they’ve chatted to me via video link they can see how passionate I am about their party and can see just how much affordable quality our party boxes offer.

The party boxes have also changed and continually evolve. I regularly assess my product offering and tweak boxes to make sure that the customers are always getting the best possible product.

In terms of what has stayed the same, I would say ‘the boss’ – my daughter. I am constantly asking her opinion on what products should be put into boxes and she never fails to be honest! Now she’s getting older, she is always keen to help out and I regularly have her putting party bags and party boxes together for me on a Sunday (all under my watchful eye of course!). I think it’s great to build that work ethic from an early age!!

What have you learned? What do you wish you’d known a year ago?

I have learnt loads over the last year most of which would not have been possible without asking for help and listening to experts.

I have really started to push the blog aspect of the website, and enjoy many guest bloggers talking about a variety of topics. In fact if anybody reading this wants to guest blog for me then please get in touch for a chat. The learning curve in terms of the technological aspect of the blog has been huge and I am still learning.

A year ago I wish I’d known just how little sleep you get running your own business. I also wish I’d had a holiday before the Life’s A Celebration website launched, as I haven’t had time for a holiday for a while. In fact a day off would be nice! I sound like I’m complaining and I’m really not. I absolutely love doing this and wouldn’t swap my life with anybody.

Any more hints and tips for people?

This is a difficult question to answer because I think in a lot of ways, if you’re thinking about starting a business, to a degree, you need to jump in with both feet and work out for yourself what works and what doesn’t. What works for one business doesn’t work for another.

However I would say if you are in a position to start a business, don’t underestimate how hard it is, how demoralising it can be on days, how little sleep you’ll get and how stressful it is. But, on the flipside, it is the best thing you could ever do and the rewards are fantastic.

Make sure you listen to people, take advice from everybody, but ultimately trust your instincts, and you won’t go far wrong.

And … where do you see yourself and your business in a(nother) year’s time?

I have no idea is my honest answer. I feel blessed that I have achieved last year’s objective. At the moment I’m taking one day at a time. But I’d like to think that Life’s A Celebration is still going and is collaborating a lot more with potential partners. Perhaps I’d like to have somebody helping me and maybe be pushing and achieving more international sales.

So maybe that’s enough of a goal to be working towards.

I’m genuinely thrilled to see how well Maxine is doing. I’ve watched her grow in confidence as she grows her business, but she’s stayed true to herself, valuing time with her family and that input from her daughter that started the whole process off, and being generous with retweets and guest blog post spots. I’m sure she’ll have come on in some more leaps and bounds by the time we check in on her next time! How’s she doing? Her 2013 interview is up now!

Here are Maxine’s contact details: Phone: 07852 955 800 Skype: celebratelife11

You can find her on her website and blog, Twitter feed, Facebook page and Pinterest.

If you’ve enjoyed this interview, please see more freelancer chat, the index to all the interviewees, and information on how you can have your business featured.


Posted by on October 27, 2012 in Business, Small Business Chat


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Waste or waist?

Another troublesome pair that I’ve seen a few times recently: another of these homonyms, or words that sound the same, which I suppose is where the problem arises. Because we all know the difference, don’t we?

A waste occurs when you have something left over that has to be thrown away, or you don’t use something and it goes off, or you spend too much – it’s all about using something carelessly or extravagantly, or not accounting for what you need. So you can waste a bag of apples if you don’t eat them in time and they go rotten and have to be thrown away, or you waste money if you pay for a gym membership and don’t ever go to the gym.

A waist is the middle of something, where it’s nipped in, particularly in the human body, where it’s the big between the ribs and the hips, but also in other creatures, and inanimate objects, like a violin.

“I wasted a lot of satin making her wedding dress, because I didn’t measure the size of her waist so I had to trim lots of pieces off the original pattern.”

You can find more troublesome pairs here and the index to them all so far is here.


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My short cuts – the line space button

Today we’re finding out all about the wonder that is the Line Space button. Do you know what it does? Did you know it was even there? And did you know how many ways there are to get to the Paragraph menu …? All this and more in today’s Short Cuts!

What is line spacing and why do I need to know about it?

Line spacing defines a large portion of what your document looks like on the page. It’s all about the gaps between the lines you type. Too close together, and your document can be hard to read. Too far apart, and there aren’t enough words on the page, with all that white space glaring at you. Of course, sometimes you’re told that your work must be presented in a particular way – double line spaced is popular for both academic work and fiction being submitted to a publisher or magazine.

It’s also really useful to be able to insert a gap between paragraphs automatically, to save you having to insert one manually – and if you find you’re working on a document that has odd spacing (or, worse, inconsistent spacing!) between lines and paragraphs, this is how you sort it out.

How do I alter the spaces between lines in my document?

We’re in Word 2007 or Word 2010 now, with that handy “ribbon” containing hundreds of little square buttons. Make sure you’re in the Home tab and have a look at the Paragraph section. You should find a button with up and down arrows to the side and lines of text in the middle: the Line Space button. There’s a big version at the top of this post, and you can find it here:

When using this button, or indeed anything that changes the word, line, paragraph, page or whole document that you are working on, make sure you’ve highlighted the text to which you want the change to apply first. Then click on the button and see what choices you are presented with:

The first thing you’ll notice is that one of the line spacing options (in the top half of the box) is already ticked, and you have an option to Remove Space After Paragraph (in the bottom part of the box) which, you can see by comparing it to the line above it, implies that there is a space set to appear after each paragraph at the moment. So one useful feature here is that clicking on the paragraph and then the line space button will tell you what is already set up for that part of the document. In this case, the spacing is 1.15 (just a little bigger than single line spacing) and there’s an extra line space after each paragraph.

Let’s try changing something …

Here, we’ve changed the line spacing to 1 and clicked on Remove Space After Paragraph, so it’s flipped to saying Add Space After Paragraph (red arrows). And look what’s happened (immediately) to our highlighted text. All of the lines are closer together, and the space between the paragraphs has disappeared (blue arrow).

We can change it back and go the other way, too …

This image is at the same scale as all of the other ones, but you can see that changing the line spacing to 1.5 and adding spaces before and after the paragraphs has really spaced it out, and moved it further down the page to start off with.

Now, there’s one line in the dialogue box we haven’t looked at yet: Line Spacing Options… What does that do?

How do I use Line Spacing Options?

The Line Spacing Options … erm, option can be found between the line spacing and paragraph spacing choices:

When you click it, you’ll be given a new dialogue box, which is actually the standard Paragraph options box. It has two tabs, and the first one is Indents and Spacing:

If you want to customise your document completely, this is where you come to set the paragraph indent, and the actual distance between paragraphs. There’s a handy Preview pane at the bottom which will show you the effect of any changes you make on some sample text (circled in blue). You can also work with Tabs from here – we talked about Tabs in another session. And, if you wish, you can change everything on here and then set it as being your default setting for paragraphs for this documents, or all documents based on this template that you ever work on:

The other tab on this dialogue box is all about Line and Page Breaks:

These are topics in themselves, so I’ll write about them in another session (if I forget to come back and put a link in here, use the Search box in the right hand column of this blog, or look it up in my index).

When you’ve finished with all of these options, just press the OK or Cancel buttons to accept your changes or go back to the document.

How do I access the Paragraph menu?

This being Word, you will find the same Paragraph menu we’ve just been looking at popping up on other routes through the software. If you just need the Paragraph menu and not the Line Spacing options in particular, you can access it from any Word document by highlighting your text, clicking with the right mouse button and selecting Paragraph from the selection that appears:

Or you can access it by clicking on the little tiny arrow at the bottom of the Paragraph title bar (if that’s what it’s called!) on the ribbon (I talk about these little arrows elsewhere, too):

I hope you’ve found these hints helpful! Do pop a comment on this post if I’ve helped you learn something new or solved a tricky problem for you, and do explore the rest of my blog if this is your first visit!

Please note, these hints work with versions of Microsoft Word currently in use – Word 2007 and Word 2010, all for PC. Mac compatible versions of Word should have similar options. Always save a copy of your document before manipulating it. I bear no responsibility for any pickles you might get yourself into!

This is part of my series on how to avoid time-consuming “short cuts” and use Word in the right way to maximise your time and improve the look of your documents. Find all the short cuts here


Posted by on October 24, 2012 in Copyediting, Errors, New skills, Short cuts, Word, Writing


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Small business chat updates – Helen McPherson and Simon Forder

Welcome to another two updates from my small business chats – today we’re catching up with Helen McPherson and Simon Forder, neither of whom is where they thought they’d be a year ago. But they’re carrying on, and plugging away, doing new things and getting on with it, and we have to admire that, don’t we! Interestingly, both have learned the same basic lesson from this year of trading …

Helen McPherson

Helen’s original interview was published on 29 October 2011. Where did Helen want to be at this point in time? “Moving away from pure therapy and more into coaching and corporate work, with a web-based income stream“. Well, she did move away …

Are you where you thought you’d be when you looked forward a year ago?

Absolutely not. Some major changes personally have meant moving house twice in the space of 9 months. We are now living at the opposite end of the country. Moving my business would have been extremely difficult due to it’s personal nature. It takes time to get established in an area and I would still be at the same early stage in the long hard slog of building my reputation now as I was a few years ago when I started out on my own in Northamptonshire. So mentally and physically I am at a very different place now to where I expected to be  when I was interviewed a year ago.

What has changed and what has stayed the same?

Not long after the last interview, some soul searching had to be done and we realised I would have to go back into paid employment. This has been strategically good for the business, strangely enough, as I am able to concentrate on the most profitable side of it, which coincidentally is also the part which takes the least amount of my time. The fact that we have moved has not affected the direction that I had planned to go in luckily. I now do not see any clients on a one-to-one basis, as I am concentrating on my CD production. This is my web-based income stream which I talked about a year ago.

I will be launching a major new CD product in the next few weeks and although it has taken time to get to this stage, I am glad I took the slow “tortoise” route, as had I taken the “hare” option I don’t think my final product would have been as good. I am very proud of the next CD.

What have you learned? What do you wish you’d known a year ago?

I suppose I have learned to be flexible.

Any more hints and tips for people?

Instinct is never wrong.  We are born with an instinct because it is a survival mechanism so we really do have to listen to it and act upon it. If something doesn’t feel right, then there is a reason for that, usually a very good reason – it is a warning which we should heed.

And … where do you see yourself and your business in a(nother) year’s time?

Hopefully in the same physical place I am in now!  I can see my CD sales going very well, with another one in the pipeline. I would like to say another two, but making a high quality product really does take time and I refuse to rush anything through that does not live up to the high standards I expect of myself.

Helen’s redoing her website at the moment, but her CDs are available on Amazon and you can contact her by email. It sounds like it’s exciting times for her at the moment – I hope she manages to stay put and be in the same physical location next time we’re in touch! And here’s where she was in 2013

Simon Forder

Simon was  featured originally on 8 October 2011. At that point, his plan for the future was: “I hope to be fully booked and regularly referring additional work to trusted colleagues“. Unfortunately, the continuing economic downturn has taken its toll as people turn away from this kind of service to an extent, but he’s still going!

Are you where you thought you’d be when you looked forward a year ago?

I am not in the position I had hoped I would be in a year ago, as finding reliable clients and new clients has proved a challenge. However in today’s climate, I am still trading, and that has to say something!

What has changed and what has stayed the same?

People are more reluctant to commit any resources to business development, preferring to try to stay put rather than trying to grow, despite the opportunities created by a shrinking pool of suppliers, and the need to gain new clients as client bases also shrink. People still need new leads!

What have you learned? What do you wish you’d known a year ago?

I have learned to be more flexible, and as part of a relaunching process, have better understood what it is that I can offer my clients and why it is so important. I wish I had a clear financial forecast for the year!

Any more hints and tips for people?

Hints and tips – nothing really but to stay true to what you believe in. If what you do is valuable, it should be worth it to someone out there!

And … where do you see yourself and your business in a(nother) year’s time?

In 12 months’ time, I hope to be exactly where I hoped to be 12 months ago when you asked me – stable and secure.

Simon can be found at and you can find all his contact details here or call him on 01807 590 380. I do hope things pick up for him in the coming year – well done for hanging on in there! See how he was doing in a year’s time

If you’ve enjoyed this interview, please see more freelancer chat, the index to all the interviewees, and information on how you can have your business featured.


Posted by on October 20, 2012 in Business, Small Business Chat


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Customising comment boxes in Word

A lot of people find this blog when they’re trying to sort out specific problems with their comment boxes (comment boxes suddenly going tiny, or comment box text running in the wrong direction, changing the language in your comment balloons). Here are general instructions on customising your comment boxes (or balloons, as they are officially called) in Word.

Why would I want to customise my comment balloons?

To be honest, the main reason for doing this is if something goes wrong. But the standard, default text size and layout may not be suitable for your purposes, and you might want to change it to make it more readable for someone with limited vision, etc.

You might also have preferences about which margin your comment balloons appear in, and how big they are.

The principles we are going to learn about here also apply when you want to customise the general styles in your document, which we will look in particular another time.

If you take a look at a document with standard comment boxes, you will see they look something like this:

Annoyingly, you will need to go to three different places to make these changes. I provide a recap at the end, but a summary might be useful here:

  • To change the location and size of balloons: Track Changes – Track Changes Options
  • To change the size, font, colour etc.of the heading (Comment M2 etc) AND/OR the size of all text in the comment balloon: Styles – Balloon text
  • To change the font and colour of the actual paragraph of text in the balloon AND/OR the size of all of the text in the comment balloon: Styles – Comment text

Note: my article on customising Track Changes will tell you how to change the colours in which the comments and corrections by different reviewers appear.

How to change where your balloons appear and their size

If you want to change which margin your balloons appear in, their size, and whether they are linked to the text by a line, you must go into the Track Changes Options menu. In the Review tab, click on the little arrow at the bottom of the Track Changes button and bring up Track Changes Options. There, at the bottom, is your balloons section:

I think this is fairly self-explanatory.

How to find the menu for customising comment balloon text

There are two ways to reach the menu you need:

  • Press Control + Alt + Shift + s all at the same time
  • Make sure you’re in the Home tab and click on the little tiny arrow at the bottom right of the Styles menu

Either of these options will bring up the full Styles dialogue box.

Using either of these methods, you will bring up the Styles dialogue box.

Now, ignore all of it except the three buttons at the bottom. Click on the rightmost button: Manage Styles to bring up the next box: Manage Styles. When you first open this window, the sort order is in what Word thinks is a useful order: As Recommendedclick on the down arrow to change it to Alphabetical:

Once you’ve got the list into alphabetical order, it’s relatively easy to find Balloon Text (note: not Comment text) and you will see that it then confirms how you have your text set up (blue circle).

Click the Modify button … Now you can change your font and font size. You’ll notice lots of other options (blue circle) to change the spacing, etc.

I’m going to change the font size, font, orientation and colour of the comment box heading, and the size of the text:

Note: As we will see, the changes in colour, font and italics etc. only apply themselves to the heading of the comment text, where it says “Comment: L1”. Why? Because it’s Word, and we are changing, very specifically, information about the Comment Balloon itself. See below for how to change the text in the comment balloon. EXCEPT, and here we may tear our hair out a little, this IS where we change the text size in the comment box .

Note, however, (blue arrow) that this does not change the size of the text itself – that is controlled from Balloon Text, and you’re just going to have to remember that, or look at the Recap I’ve written at the bottom!

At this point in either menu option, you can also click on the Format button and change all sorts of aspects:

Now, you probably won’t want to go to this level of fancy detail with the comments balloons, but, of course, this dialogue box is not only for changing the style of comment balloons: it’s also where you set up all of the styles in your document if you want to change and customise them.

You can also choose whether this change applies only to this document, or to all documents based on this template, and add it to your Quick Styles list if you want:

Press the OK button, and carry on pressing OK buttons until you get back to your document. Now, your comment will appear in the style you have chosen. If you’ve only chosen to amend the Comment Balloon text size, only the header will have changed:

If you’ve chosen to customise the Comment Text as well, you will have made all of these changes:

Now your comment boxes have large, easy-to-read text in a useful colour. and a very fancy heading. We’ve customised your comment boxes or, as you now know to call them, your comment balloons, and the comment text

A quick recap

  • To change where the balloons appear, and their size, use the Track Changes Options section in the Review tab
  • To change the size and orientation of the comment balloon header text, and/or the size of all of the text, use the Comment Balloon option in the Manage Styles list
  • To change the colour and font of the comment balloon text, and/or the size of all of the text in the balloon, use the Comment Text option in the Manage Styles list

Why not take a look at these related topics, which should help you further?

What to do if your comment boxes go tiny in Word

What to do if your comment boxes start running from right to left

Changing the language in your comment balloons

Customising Track Changes

This is part of my series on how to avoid time-consuming “short cuts” and use Word in the right way to maximise your time and improve the look of your documents. Find all the short cuts here

Do let me know if this has helped you, saved your bacon, etc. – and do share with the buttons at the bottom of this article.


Posted by on October 19, 2012 in Copyediting, New skills, Students, Word, Writing


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Small business chat updates – Andy Warner-Simpson and Nathan Littleton

Welcome to not one but two updates from my small business chats – today we’re catching up with Andy Warner-Simpson and Nathan Littleton, both, I’m pleased to say, doing very well!

Andy Warner-Simpson

mugs Andy’s original interview was published on 24 September 2011. When asked where he saw himself in a year’s time, he answered, “A.S Photography are now looking to find premises for a studio. The plan is in the next 12 months to have a fully equipped photography studio in Milton Keynes for our business headshots and domestic portraits. We will still work on location for many of our services but with the option of studio-based photography for those who would prefer it. We also have a very exciting project in the very early stages that I would love to talk about, but it’s too soon to say anything. Ask me again in a few months, and hopefully I can expand on this”. And isn’t he doing well!

Are you where you thought you’d be when you looked forward a year ago?

Things are really doing better than we could ever imagined and the business has gone from strength to strength over the last 12 months. Never did I imagine we would surpass so many of our goals and business plans. It really shows that setting goals and working hard towards them really does help you succeed in business.

What has changed and what has stayed the same?

On July 1st 2012 we opened the A.S Photography Studio at 13a Stratford Road, Wolverton. This has now given us the opportunity to provide a studio service for portraits, headshots and commercial photography alongside our location-based work.  We found the perfect premises for our studio and have really created a great home for A.S Photography. Our aim as we grow has always been to still offer the same high level of service as we always have and while our workload and client base has grown we have managed to still give our clients the personal service they deserve and that they expect from a family business.

A.S Photography has also teamed up with several local suppliers who work in the wedding industry to create the MK Wedding Network ( The aim of this group is to provide our clients with recommendations of business we really know and trust and whom we know offer the highest standards possible for their wedding. This gives me the ability to go one step further for all my Wedding Photography clients and help them cover many other aspects of their wedding day with piece of mind. Network members all meet monthly in order to fully understand the ins and outs of fellow members’ business and build real trust in the quality of the work they produce. These quality referrals have not only helped my own business grow but really helped all of my clients in their wedding planning.

What have you learned? What do you wish you’d known a year ago?

The one thing I have learned over the last 12 months is the importance of valuing your products and services. There is so much competition out there, many of whom charge much less than A.S Photography while offering a lower standard of service, and it has been very tempting to undervalue what we do and try to match these prices. I have begun to realise that if we do not value our service who will. A.S Photography may not be the cheapest but our aim is to be the best while still offering value and a wide range for different budgets. Since realising this, we have really managed to find our place in the market and our clients really see the great value we offer and the high standards in both our work and the products we supply.

Any more hints and tips for people?

I am going to keep this very short and that is to say that you get out what you put in. Sitting back and waiting for it to happen for you is never going to happen. Grab the bull by the horns… What a cliché!

And … where do you see yourself and your business in a(nother) year’s time.

This year is going to be spent improving on what we have. We have always aimed to grow slowly and sensibly and with such a big leap as taking on premises, we really want to get grounded before we set our sights on anything bigger. If in 12 months I have a steady client base in the studio while still maintaining my current success in the wedding industry I will be more than happy.

Thank you, Andy – it’s great to see plans being successfully implemented and my featured businesses doing so well! I think it’s a great idea to get together with other businesses in the same industry, too. What’s he up to a year later? Read all about it here.

Andy’s website can still be found at and you can phone him on 01908 315 282.

Nathan Littleton

Nathan was our Child Genius, featured originally on 17 September 2011. At that point, his plan for the future was to be: “On a sunny beach, preferably. The goals for the next year are big ones, and we’re looking to work with more and more freelance designers who are passionate about what they do and are hungry for more business. With that, the business will be completely systemised to improve client delivery and turnaround times“. So, did he send me his update from a sunny beach …?

Are you where you thought you’d be when you looked forward a year ago?

My main aim for the following year was to grow our freelance network to scale up our operations. We’ve done that quite successfully, with our network now consisting of 23 people/companies (including you, Liz!). In May I moved to new offices on Hagley Road and in July recruited my first in-house team member, Tom. He’s been a massive help, and will work closely with clients to improve the service we offer.

I still have some of the same challenges I had a year ago, most of which relate to where my time is best invested. Tom’s helping to free up some of my time where it would be better used in more profitable areas of the business.

What has changed and what has stayed the same?

Lots has changed, and over the last few months especially, I’ve worked hard to improve my business systems and processes. I’ve created an online operations manual and I’ll be offering this to other businesses in the fourth quarter of 2012. It’s really revolutionised the way Future Visions is managed from day to day, and ensures that everything we do is done consistently and efficiently.

As mentioned above, we’re now in new offices and the team has grown, so we’re in a great position for the business to grow in the next year and beyond.

Despite that, I’m still working just as hard as I was last year and there still aren’t 30 hours in a day!

What have you learned? What do you wish you’d known a year ago?

I’ve discovered the wonders of passive revenue. There’s a mindset change when compared to directly selling time for money, and that change has led to our best year ever while freeing up more time for me to work on the business.

Any more hints and tips for people?

I think it’s sensible practice for any freelancer or business owner to consider what resources they have at their disposal to allow them to be perceived as an expert in their given field. Speaking from stage, publishing a book and creating an information product are all fantastic ways to do this.

And … where do you see yourself and your business in a(nother) year’s time?

I’ve always struggled to create clear, specific goals, and when I started my business I didn’t start with the end in mind. I still don’t know exactly how I’ll get there, but in a year’s time I want my business to be leveraged enough that I have 2 free days in the week to concentrate purely ON the business, to speak in schools and to mentor students.

So exciting stuff for Nathan, too. He’s not exactly where he said he’d be in a year’s time, but he’s made significant progress with his business and moving into new premises has been a big step for both of my interviewees. Passive income, by the way, is where you put a product out there – a book, an e-book, a podcast, a training video, and let it earn money for you in the background while you do something else. I’ve started this myself with my e-book and it’s a great positive step if you can’t create more hours in the day! Where was Nathan a year later? Read on to find out

Nathan’s website can still be found at and you can call his office on 0121 288 3688.

If you’ve enjoyed this interview, please see more freelancer chat, the index to all the interviewees, and information on how you can have your business featured.


Posted by on October 13, 2012 in Business, Small Business Chat


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A quick note …

New subscribers to / readers of this blog might be interested in my more personal reflections on being a full-time self-employed person over on my personal blog, Libro Full Time. If you just want the business stuff, select the self-employment category from the cloud, or if you want everything (business stuff and book reviews), just take a look at the blog or the About page. Thank you!

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Posted by on October 12, 2012 in Business



Working with Track Changes in a document

Here’s the last part of my series on working with Track Changes. We’ve already learned what Track Changes is, why we use it and where to find it, and how to customise Track Changes to suit our own preferences. Now it’s time to learn how to work with a document that has Tracked Changes – i.e. how to get rid of all those marks and comment boxes and be left with a clean document with no errors.

Why do I need to work with Track Changes in a document?

These instructions will be useful to anyone who has their work edited, critiqued or otherwise commented on by other people. For example, I work in Track Changes with all of my student customers, because they need to see what I’m suggesting they should change so they can make the decisions and retain their understanding and authorship of their own texts.

If a text has Track Changes on it and you want to submit it for your Master’s or PhD, a journal, a magazine that publishes creative writing … you need to remove those Tracked Changes so they don’t show up when someone else reads your document.

(Note: in the last article we looked at how the different views of track changes don’t actually delete the changes – review this article for more information in the section “How can I change which changes I can see?”)

How do I remove the Track Changes markup from my document?

To get back to basics, you’ll find all the buttons and drop-downs you need in the Review tab in Word 2007 or 2010 (or the Tools dropdown in Word 2003):

Review section

We’re looking at the Accept / Reject area to the right of this section, and then the New Comment / Delete area to the left.

And let’s just remind ourselves what a document with Track Changes looks like: here’s the one we’ve been working on for a little while now. Additions show up in red underlined, deletions disappear and pop into a comment box, and comments and corrections appear in different colours depending on who entered them:

Document with tracked changes

So, first of all you will need to look at each of the changes that are showing in your document and decide whether to accept or reject them. Then you need to review all the comments, make the necessary amendments, and delete the comment. Finally, you need to check that all the markup has actually disappeared, and you’re left with a nice clean document.

How do I accept changes in a document?

The area you need to look at for accepting (and rejecting) changes is that section in the middle of the Review tab that looks like this.

Accept changes button

You will notice that there’s a little arrow on the Accept button; if you drop that down you get a range of choices. Let’s see what happens if you position the cursor by the change you want to accept and hit Accept Change:

Change accepted

You can see that the word “text” has stopped being underlined and changed from red to black. You have accepted the change, and the additional text has basically become part of the actual, final version of the document now.

You can Accept and Move to Next if you want to skip through all of the changes one by one – a good option to take that ensures you don’t miss one. Or you can do this manually using those blue arrows to the right of the Accept and Reject buttons. Or, you can choose Accept All Changes:

Accept all changes

If you do this, as you can see, all of the tracked changes (but not the comment boxes) disappear.

Note: I don’t encourage student clients to do this, as I prefer them to look at every change and accept or reject it individually. However, I use this option if I have been asked to provide two versions of a document for a client: one with changes marked and one “clean” copy. It’s a quick way of accepting all the changes I’ve made and seeing what I’m left with.

You can undo any individual Accept Change or Accept All Changes, immediately after you’ve done it, by hitting the Undo button:

undo button

How do I reject changes in a document?

Rejecting changes is done in exactly the same way as Accepting changes. Obviously, if your editor has suggested a change for you, they are the expert and it’s worth seriously considering accepting it. But there could be a choice involved (with a comment box nearby explaining it) or you could be working collaboratively with a colleague and deciding to reject a change one of you has made.

Anyway, there’s a Reject button with a dropdown arrow, and the choices are the same, when you place the cursor by a marked change, allowing you to reject just that change or reject it and move on to the next one …

Reject change

When you reject this change, you will see that the text will revert back to what it said originally, with a word missing. The insertion has been deleted, and again there is nothing there in red or underlined, but that’s because it has been removed from the document.

reject change - text altered

And again, you can decide to Reject All Changes (not if I’ve made them for you, though!), in which case …

reject all changes

all of the changes (but not the comments) will disappear and you’ll be left with your original textt, just as it started out. Of course, you won’t want to do this if you’ve asked an editor to offer their suggestions, but you need to know what this does and how to use it.

How do I remove the comments in a document?

OK, so we’ve gone through all of the changes in the text and accepted or rejected them. Now how do we get rid of all those comments in the margin?

The area for doing this is on the left of the Review section. You will see a series of buttons for handling comments:

comments buttons

The important thing to remember here is that, like with the accept or reject changes functions, you need to have the cursor on the affected text when you choose to delete the comment.

deleting a comment

When you press the Delete Comment button, both the highlight in the text and the comment box in the margin will disappear:

comment deleted

You can choose to Delete all Comments: I suppose this would be useful if you’ve reviewed all the comments and done what they say, although personally I like to review a comment, do what it instructs, then delete the comment individually, and that’s how I would always recommend you work through them.

Anyway, once you have accepted or rejected all the changes, and deleted all the comment boxes, you should be left with a clean, amended text with no coloured or underlined text, no lines in the left hand margin, and no comment boxes:

clean copy

Why can’t I make all the Tracked Changes disappear?

You may sometimes find that there are some sneaky bits of markup left in your text once you’ve done all the above. This usually shows up as lines in the margin where a small change has been made.

The other culprit is thinking that you can use the Final Showing Markup menu to hide the track changes. You can’t. Any method you use to customise track changes will only appear in your own version on your own computer. Several of my clients have reported that they have turned off Track Changes, then all the changes have “reappeared” when they re-opened the document. That’s because they had chosen the Show Final option, thinking they had removed the markup but really only hiding it on their version of the document.

As I mentioned at the beginning of this article, review this paragraph under the heading “How can I change which changes I can see?” for more information on this aspect of customising track changes..

In summary: the only way to remove Track Changes markup is to:

  • Go through each change
  • Decide whether you accept it
  • Accept or reject it
  • Move on to the next item
  • Review the comments and do whatever you are instructed to do
  • Remove the comments once you have reviewed them

If any last vertical lines then remain in the left hand margin, it’s fine to hit Accept all Changes, which will get rid of them once and for all.


This article has taught you how to work with a document that has been marked up using Track Changes. You can read more about what Track Changes is and why we use it, and learn how to customise Track Changes.

If you have found this article useful, please share or “like” it using the buttons below, or leave me a comment to tell me what you think. Thank you!

This is part of my series on how to avoid time-consuming “short cuts” and use Word in the right way to maximise your time and improve the look of your documents.

Please note, these hints work with versions of Microsoft Word currently in use – Word 2003, Word 2007 and Word 2010, all for PC. Mac compatible versions of Word should have similar options. Always save a copy of your document before manipulating it. I bear no responsibility for any pickles you might get yourself into!

Find all the short cuts here


Posted by on October 10, 2012 in Copyediting, Errors, New skills, Short cuts, Word, Writing


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Gunnel or gunwale?

I’ve seen a few blog posts and articles mentioning something being “packed to the gunnels” and I’ve been getting all steamed up about the mistake, knowing it should be “packed to the gunwales”. So, I decided to write up one of my Troublesome Pairs to differentiate them.

A gunwale is the upper edge or planking of the side of a boat. By extension, we tend to use “packed to the gunwales” as a metaphor for something being full up, as if a boat is literally packed to its gunwales, it will be completely full up to the brim.

A gunnel is … an alternative spelling for gunwale. So I apologise to the writers against whom I have fulminated. Luckily, I didn’t mention it to anyone before I checked! And I still prefer gunwales, myself.

Note: they are pronounced the same: “gunnel(s)”.

You can find more troublesome pairs here and the index to them all so far is here.


Posted by on October 8, 2012 in Errors, Language use, Troublesome pairs, Writing


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